Solano Jr. transforms classroom
Instructor uses Zumba to help keep students fit
Published: Saturday, October 26, 2013
Updated: Saturday, October 26, 2013 13:10
Within moments of the music pulsing through the speakers, Oscar Solano Jr.’s Zumba Love event had transformed the room from a group of awkward students into an exuberant Latin dance club.
The Center for Science Excellence Program introduced this unique event in the form of a one-time class to engage students in a healthier, exciting new way.
A student of Zumba, Dr. Setiati Sidharta, director of the CSE program, introduced Solano to Contra Costa College personally.
Dr. Sidharta’s assistant, Danielle Odeh-Ajero, said the program does an activity every Friday. She said the Zumba event is different than what CSE students usually do on Fridays, but still focused on wellness.
Before the class began, students filled GA-10 and began signing up for it. The event’s pre-sign-up date guaranteed a spot for many students but others anxiously waited to see if there would be room for them to join.
For the most part, students came prepared in workout-specific clothing, aerobic shoes and bottles of water. Others were inappropriately dressed in jeans.
Solano, more than ready to start moving, began clapping his hands and speaking to the crowd.
“Zumba is for everybody. You’re just here to have fun—try not to get hurt.” He encouraged everyone to clap their hands and to all yell “hurra.”
Standing small in stature with slicked back hair and a hoop pierced through his left ear, Solano inspired confidence in his students, and his presence had a relaxing effect that transformed the energy of the room during the first song. His aura engulfed the room and his excitement was contagious.
At one point, Solano left the dancers to turn up the music to a deafening level as an Enrique Iglesias song started. After the first few verses, everyone’s breathing became heavy, faces wet in a sheen of sweat, and Solano’s shirt was drenched from exertion.
Despite his outward exhaustion, Solano spoke effortlessly.
He said, “Men, don’t feel like you’re not trying hard enough. And ladies, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong.”
His moves were seductive as he demonstrated what everyone should be mimicking as if there was no exhaustion involved. His face lit up with smiles and winks as his body rolled to the beat.
One-third of the way through, the class broke for water. On her way back from hydrating and cooling a reddened face, CCC Vice President Tammeil Gilkerson said the class was so much fun.
“I came out to show support to the students and the program,” Gilkerson said as she hurried back to the front row along with Dr. Sidharta and Mayra Padilla, CCC’s academic student services manager-Title III.
The air became thick and the temperature made the large room feel like a sauna.
And when people appeared to lose momentum, Solano danced through the crowd and personally motivated those in dire need of moral support.
Students lightly bumped into each other as they tried to coordinate their moves to Solano’s. Everyone was in good spirits laughing and sweating as they looked around for guidance.
Taking a break to rest her sore ankle, student Marjorie Chatman said, “I really think this is wonderful. I love it.” She put her hands on her waist as she caught her breath, “It’s so high energy — I could lose weight off this.”
Within seconds Chatman was back following Solano’s lead, her earrings dangling back and forth as her long hair swept the back of her hot pink tank top. She let out a “woo” as she deliberately stomped her feet with the music.
Before the cool down started and heart rates could be elevated, student Diana Dela Torre snuck out, but not before saying she would take his class again.
“(It’s great because) he tells us to go at our own pace and gets us out of our comfort zones,” Torre said.
Zumba finished on a slow beat and involved lots of stretching and “great jobs” all around. The air buzzed with accomplishment as students talked about how hard they worked in the past hour.
Mechanical engineering major Ivan Linares said, “(Solano’s) so energetic — I’d take it (his class) again.”
Solano shared hugs and wished everyone well as they left. He added an electrolyte supplement to his water and changed his drenched shirt into something fresh.
A former architectural designer, Solano found Zumba during a time of his life when he needed a new direction. He moved to Alabama after being laid off three years ago, and “felt withdrawal from the Salsa world.”
After taking a Zumba class at the YMCA, Solano was challenged to get back in shape and get ready for the next class.
He warmly spoke of a Dr. Paula, who encouraged him to become an instructor. Back in the East Bay, and teaching for the past three years, Solano said he’s much happier than he was before.
Rumors of a P.E. position for Solano surged through the class.
Solano said that offering Zumba classes to CCC students would instill the idea that fitness must be a part of your daily or (even) weekly life.